The Sext Crime Trials

Mock trials expose often hidden problem of sharing intimate material.
Jun 13, 2024
Think before you push that button, there may be heavy consequences.

One thing about the internet is its capacity for mischief, with the poke of a screen, untold, lasting damage can be unleashed.

The sharing of nudes without knowledge or consent is common but the full consequence for the victim and the perpetrator often goes unrealised.

So, the National Trust (Vic) collaborated with Gippsland Community Legal Service and consulted Victoria Police to create the Respect Me program to fight sexting and the damage associated with it.

The National Trust’s Respect Me court room drama puts the issue front and centre. Taking place in the Former Magistrate’s Court in Melbourne, students are assigned roles, and read a script based on a recent trial. They re-enact the trial using scripts portraying the different figures within the court room such as the judge, the jury, the defence, and the prosecution.

Students are supported to present their views on the crime portrayed and how these affect the young people involved - students consider the factors at play such as the impact on both the victim and the defendant.

After the mock-trial, a trained National Trust facilitator guides students to discuss the ethical and legal considerations of a case like this and decide what the appropriate outcome for such a case would be.

“Reports of teenagers sharing or posting sexually explicit images or messages, along with legislation identifying the sharing of such images ‘child abuse material’ prompted us to devise this program. Sharing explicit images, or ‘sexting’, is illegal when it involves people under the age of 18 years. Once an image is shared, there is no control where it will end up or who will see it, let alone the potential for the sharer to be listed as sex offender,” says Nicola Dziadkiewicz, Education & Public Programs Manager at The National Trust of Australia (Vic).

“The purpose of the program is to support secondary school students to understand the consequence of pressing ‘send’. The impacts are far-reaching, not only for them, the sharer of the images, but for all involved. Through this program, teens develop a better understanding of the legal implications, and how it could lead to prosecution.

“The National Trust’s Respect Me court room drama is our most popular court room drama. Schools re-book year after year, which is a testament to the positive and long-lasting impact of the program. The Respect Me program has been on offer for 10 years and is updated to reflect changes to the law. 81 school groups have participated so far this year,” she says.

One teacher’s feedback; “We really love bringing our Year 9s to do the Courtroom Drama. They always find it really engaging and it’s a great way to get them thinking about the ways in which they send/receive messages and also the way they use social media.”